Everyone who works for a non-profit has seen the famous fundraising thermometer. They’re commonly used at non-profit events, during online fundraising campaigns, as part of capital campaigns and telethons, and on non-profit crowdfunding sites.
While everyone has seen fundraising thermometers, many people aren’t sure how to use one to best support their fundraising efforts. My goal for this article is not only to tell you a little more about why thermometers work so well to boost your fundraising revenue, but also to give you a list of resources you can use to create a fundraising thermometer for your next fundraising event or campaign.
Why a Fundraising Thermometer Helps Boost Your Revenue
The reason why you see fundraising thermometers and progress bars used as part of so many fundraising campaigns is because they work. There are several reasons why these tools are so effective for fundraising:
#1: They Offer Social Proof
When it comes to large fundraising campaigns, most people don’t like to be the first ones to give. That’s because they want to be reasonably sure that they aren’t the only ones who are going to be donating to the effort.
Fundraising thermometers and progress bars offer “social proof,” meaning proof that others are donating to the effort as well. If your campaign has a goal of raising $100,000 and your thermometer shows that you’ve already raised $25,000 or $50,000, your donors will feel like they are joining a team of others who are all working together to reach that goal.
Likewise, for new donors, this shows that your organization is real and trustworthy. If 125 people have already donated a total of $25,000 to your campaign, it shows that there are 125 other people out there who trust you and your work… and makes a new donor feel that he or she can reasonably trust you as well.
#2: They Show Forward Progress
Another reason why fundraising thermometers help you raise more money is because they show forward progress. As your donors check on the status of your fundraising efforts (or participate in your fundraising events), they can see the fundraising thermometer steadily going up. This helps them know that you are accomplishing your goals.
If they have already donated, this forward progress will help them feel good about having given and may encourage them to give even more to help you reach your goal. If they have not yet given, this progress will make them want to participate for fear of missing out on being part of the team that is making this progress happen.
#3: People Are Goal-Oriented
The final reason why a fundraising thermometer can help boost your fundraising efforts is because by their nature, people are goal-oriented. They want to set objectives and then meet them, and they want to work with organizations that are setting goals and accomplishing them. Fundraising thermometers and progress bars are a way to show that your non-profit is setting a big, audacious fundraising goal, and then working hard to meet that goal.
Using a Fundraising Thermometer on Your Website
Now that you know how effective fundraising thermometers can be, you are probably wondering how to set them up to use on your website and at your live fundraising events.
Let’s start by looking at some resources you can use to set up a thermometer on your website. Thankfully, technology has made this easier than ever. If you’re a smaller non-profit, you don’t need to so a complete website redesign or hire an expensive developer!
One easy way to use a fundraising thermometer online is by using a crowdfunding platform like Classy or CauseVox. These sites have fundraising progress bars baked right in. You can create a fundraising campaign directly on the crowdfunding platform, and then link to the campaign from your website, e-mail newsletters, and social media. Because you won’t be using thermometers for every day fundraising (and instead only using them for campaigns… more on that later…) this is a viable option.
Another way you can easily display a fundraising thermometer on your website is by using a WordPress plugin, if your website runs on the WordPress platform. One such plugin is Ultimeter. Going the plugin route requires additional technological skills, but if your non-profit website is completely managed in-house, your team can probably figure it out.
You can also use tools like this one to create static graphics of your thermometer, and then just create a new graphic each day or week as more revenue comes in.
Using a Fundraising Thermometer at Your Live Events
Another common use for fundraising thermometers is at live non-profit events (including virtual events that are held live online). At many of these events, a large printed fundraising thermometer will be set up on stage and as the night progresses, the staff will continually fill in the thermometer as pledges and donations are made.
Amazon sells a number of large format templates that are the right size for in-person and virtual events… you can see them by clicking here.
Tips for Success
Before we wrap up this guide, I wanted to give you two important tips for success when using fundraising thermometers at your non-profit:
#1: Use Thermometers for Campaigns, Not Annual Fundraising
Generally, thermometers and progress bars work well for fundraising campaigns, but not for your annual fundraising goals. Thermometers are best for short-term campaigns… meaning raising money at an event, or for a capital campaign, or when you need to buy a new van for your mobile clinic. They don’t work well for keeping track of the $300,000 you need to raise for operating expenses each year.
#2: Make Sure All of Your Fundraising Thermometers are Accompanied by an Easy Way to Give
Also, remember that one of the primary goals for your fundraising thermometer is making people want to get involved by making a donation. For this reason, your thermometers should always be accompanied by a way to give.
When you display one online, make sure that there’s a donation button close by. When you use one at a live or virtual fundraising event, make sure people know exactly how to make a donation – right there on the spot.